So You Got This Cool VR Headset, Now What?

So You Got This Cool VR Headset, Now What?
December 29, 2016

So you just received your first virtual reality headset for the holidays. It’s a shiny and new with that fresh out-of-the-box smell and the promise of unique experiences. But before showing off VR to friends and family, it’s best to wade, not dive, into the offerings.


After spending time with my own PlayStation VR headset, I’ve learned you shouldn’t pick up the first shooter or racing game you come across. That’s like jumping into trigonometry when you haven’t mastered addition and subtraction. Instead, first adjust to how the technology works, starting with practicing how to strap the device on the noggin for the most comfortable gaming.


Once that’s done, it’s good to start off with passive experiences. Players can download the Hulu or Littlstar app on the PlayStation 4. Both programs offer VR video experiences. Many are short documentaries shot with special cameras, giving users the feeling of being in Paris or Yellowstone Park.

From there, you can advance to more intense environments. A good kicking off point is “PlayStation VR Worlds,” which is essentially a compilation of tech demos that Sony used to demonstrate the potential of its machine. In this title, those demos have been polished and expanded.


Experiences such as “Ocean Descent” are great for newcomers because it doesn’t ask them to do much aside from look around and enjoy a harrowing trip to the deep. Other adventures such as “VR Luge” and “Scavengers Odyssey” may leave others feeling queasy because they involve high-speed motion. That’s an issue developers are still trying to figure out.


The highlight of the “PlayStation VR Worlds” is the “London Heist,” a first-person experience that’s stationary. Players work for a crime family and are tasked with stealing a diamond. Unfortunately, the burglary goes awry. The demo shows how intuitive VR can be and how the concept of shooters can translate to the new medium.


Personally, I prefer the stationary type of gameplay because it allows newbies to enjoy the fun while minimizing any discomfort. That’s important to keep in mind when sharing VR. If friends’ first impressions makes them toss their cookies, they probably won’t do it again. That’s why I recommend titles such as “Surgeon Simulator: Experience Reality,” “Job Simulator,” “I Expect You to Die” and “Werewolves Within.”

Surgeon Simulator” is a port of the popular PC game. It puts players in the role of doctor and they have to perform surgery without any prior knowledge. Is it a recipe for disaster? Yes, it is but it’s also a formula for laughs as players fumble with tools and hack through poor patients in an effort to replace a vital organ. Think of this as the evolution of the board game “Operation” and an offering for aspiring doctors.

“Job Simulator” has a similar vibe, but it doesn’t have the blood and guts of the operating room. In this satire, players are humans visiting a museum in a future where robots have taken everyone’s job. In an effort to preserve the past, the bots have created this VR experience to let humans experience life as an office worker, chef, mechanic or convenience store clerk. Players work a station and they have to figure out the ins and outs of their job.


The magic of “Job Simulator” is in how the work areas are designed to give players a feel for tasks while staying in one place. The Move controls make the game intuitive and its humor and attention to tiny details make this game a replayable experience.

“I Expect You to Die” takes the “escape from a room” genre and moves it to the virtual realm. Players take on the role of a secret agent and, during each mission, find themselves in a James Bond predicament like having to stop a virus from launching on a missile or fixing a leaky escape pod from a sub.


The project is essentially a puzzle game where players have to use the tools in the environment to solve problems and disable traps. Often the solutions are clever, letting players do tricks they normally see in movies such as spraying mist to see invisible lasers or finding a secret compartment in a room. The only issue is that using the special agent’s telekentic powers to grab things in the environment can take some adjustment. But it’s an ability that works well.

“Werewolves Within” is a more social take on VR. Instead of fighting with weapons, players duel with their words. The game is a high-tech take on the classic party game “Werewolf.” In this online title, a few players are picked as the werewolf hiding among the group. All the other players are assigned a role such as saint, gossip, deviant and turncoat. Players have to act their role out.


“Werewolves Within” is all about deceit and trying to lie your way to victory if you’re a monster. If you are human, it’s about trying to sift through the facts and figure out who is fibbing. The game works in VR because there’s a sense of presence. Having the headset on makes players feel as if they’re sitting around a crystal ball trying to divine who is friend and foe. It’s an unexpected but a smart take on VR.

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